Understanding Burnout

What is Burnout?

The everyday person regularly juggles day-to-day activities and responsibilities that generally come with adulting. Many individuals balance work, partners, parenting, caretaking, and financial responsibilities, and are trying to do the best they can with what they have. Recognized as an international “phenomenon” in 2019 by the World Health Organization (WHO), “burnout” became a worldwide issue that required even deeper research and understanding to prevent negative health outcomes. Working alongside many clients who identify with multiple roles and wear multiple hats daily, coaches should understand what their clients are facing with compassion to serve as key support in their wellness journey. 

Types of Burnout

Workplace stressors can impact clients depending on their vocation, commute, and overall bandwidth in the day to juggle their work while also taking on their other responsibilities. The WHO defines employee burnout as: “A syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed” and includes key components that can manifest through feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negative toward one’s career, along with reduced professional productivity. Over 50% of Gallup-polled workers feel support from their employment teams and over 60% feel an increased sense of burnout since 2020.

For clients who are parent figures in the lives of children or who take care of other family members, stress and exhaustion levels can escalate to the level of burnout for as many as 20% of that population. These rates are higher for parents of children with chronic illnesses or who take care of multiple children and family members. Parental and caretaker burnout bubbles to the surface in individuals through exhaustion first – both physical and emotional. They can then display emotional distancing next, followed by a loss of fulfillment and pleasure in parenting while having feelings of guilt, shame, and self-discrepancy (distress over failing or inadequacy). The best predictors of negative impacts from parental/caretaker burnout are low emotional intelligence, lack of social support, social pressures toward perfection, co-parenting disagreement, and work-family conflict. Additionally, unemployment, financial insecurity, and a lack of leisure time are associated with an increased risk. Varying cultural environments or ways of living can contribute to the impact of parental/caretaker burnout as well. 

Looking across the globe, world and environmental stressors are impacting individuals every day. Three years ago in 2021, four out of 10 adults said they experienced a lot of worry (42%) or stress (41%), more than three in 10 experienced a lot of physical pain (31%), more than one in four experienced sadness (28%), and about a quarter surveyed experienced anger (23%). Feelings of worry, pain, stress, or sadness are already going up year over year with the Positive Experience Index dropping for the first time starting in 2021 progressively. Implications can be felt depending on an individual’s proximity to stressors directly and depending on where they live. Watching world news while feeling a sense of hopelessness or worry for the future continues to impact unhappiness on a global scale. 

What is the role of the coach with burnout?

Coaches need to know that their role in the lives of their clients and students is to support their clients who are focusing on their wellness while working to prevent burnout in their lives. It’s a huge step for someone to sign up to take a class or to make the time for coaching sessions. Given the fact that there are only 24 hours in each day, the first steps of starting a fitness journey are worthy of acknowledgment. During an initial assessment, it can be helpful for a coach to take the time to learn about their client and see what additional facets make up their day-to-day lives and could be contributing to burnout. When a client sets up their sessions, flexibility, and partnership on schedule can be key to finding what best times work for someone’s schedule along with the best method where they can feel successful (i.e. virtual sessions versus in-person.) 

Stay tuned for another piece focusing on how coaches can support their clients through guidance, showing how wellness can positively impact their day-to-day routine. 

  1. Amplifying well-being at work and beyond through recognition. (2023, March 9). Workhuman. https://www.workhuman.com/resources/reports-guides/amplifying-wellbeing-at-work-and-beyond-through-recognition-emea/?utm_source=google&utm_campaign=2160942&utm_term=2024_wh_sem_nb_awareness_secondary_na_phr_pros%7Eworkers_burnout&utm_content=1hMEuIhJHwPdULyw4v9YeN&utm_medium=cpc
  2. Moss, J. (2021, December 21). Burnout is about your workplace, not your people. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2019/12/burnout-is-about-your-workplace-not-your-people
  3. Ray, B. J. (2024, March 22). World unhappier, more stressed out than ever. Gallup.com. https://news.gallup.com/poll/394025/world-unhappier-stressed-ever.aspx#:~:text=In%202021%2C%20four%20in%2010,fewer%20experienced%20anger%20(23%25).
  4. Shpancer, N., Ph. D. (2023, August 1). Parental burnout: When parenting becomes too much What happens when parents are overwhelmed? Psychology Today. Retrieved May 28, 2024, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/insight-therapy/202307/parental-burnout-when-parenting-becomes-too-much
  5. World Health Organization: WHO. (2019, May 28). Burn-out an “occupational phenomenon”: International Classification of Diseases. The World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news/item/28-05-2019-burn-out-an-occupational-phenomenon-international-classification-of-diseases


Katrina is a global educator and Certified Wellness Specialist dedicated to bridging gaps through equitable access and collaborative coaching. With over 20 years of experience, she leads diverse teams, creates support groups, and mentors future leaders. Katrina specializes in Bias Unearthing, Neurodiversity Inclusion, and Intersectional Inclusion. She holds a Master of Science in Exercise Science and Health Promotion, certificates in Diversity and Inclusion from Cornell and USF, and an Associate of Science in Graphic Design. Katrina’s mission is to foster unity through self-care and compassion, making healing a path to deeper purpose and inclusivity.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Powering the Business of Health, Fitness, and Wellness Coaching